IBM 1 GB Microdrive

Looking for an easy way to carry 2,500 .JPG images?
Written by Bruce Brown, Contributor

Looking for an easy way to carry 2,500 .JPG images? How about 275 MP3 files? A 200,000-contact Outlook database? IBM's revved-up 1.0 GB Microdrive Travel Kit can boost your productivity and fun because of its tiny size and light weight, versatile compatibility with a wide range of devices, and knock-out easy installation.

Pros and Cons
Compact Size
Simple installation
Easy to switch between devices
High capacity for its size and price
Inexpensive compared to other removable flash media
Expensive compared to conventional drives
Requires less common CF+ II slot
The previous Microdrive models topped out at 340MB, and while the technology was impressive (somehow squeezing a rotating-head disk drive into a CompactFlash card), the first generation 170MB and 340MB drives were hard to get and had to overcome the impression of being expensive. Now avid gadget users can buy a 1.0 GB Microdrive to carry applications and files on one tiny card that easily fits in your pocket or even your wallet change holder.

It's important to note that you can't use the IBM Microdrive with all CompactFlash slots. Type I slots are too narrow -- you need the wider slot called a CF+ II slot; for example, the new HP Jornada 545/548 Pocket PCs have a Type I slot and can't use this card, while the Casio Pocket PCs can.

You can't compare the per megabyte cost of the Microdrive with conventional hard drives -- if you want a regular drive by all means buy one. When you compare the storage cost of the Microdrive with removable flash memory media such as CompactFlash cards, Smart Media cards, MMC cards, and Memory Sticks, however, IBM's new model is the hands-down best choice. Compared to CompactFlash memory cards (which cost roughly $2 per MB for 64MB cards), the 1.0 GB MicroDrive is a great deal at $0.50 per MB. You could carry the equivalent amount of data on 70 floppy disks for a much lower price, but imagine how cumbersome and slow that would be.

The Microdrive's range of compatible devices includes many professional and a few prosumer digital cameras, most keyboard-equipped handheld PDAs, some keyboard-less PDAs, and, because the Travel Kit includes a PC Card (PCMCIA) adapter, almost all notebook PCs. You can also pop the Microdrive into the increasingly common CF card readers that usually attach to notebook or desktop PCs with USB cables. The travel kit also comes with a plastic case to hold the PC card and the Microdrive -- the combo's still small enough to fit in a tiny shirt pocket.

We used the Microdrive successfully with a two-year-old NEC Mobile Pro 800 Windows CE handheld PC, a brand-new HP Jornada 720 Handheld PC 2000, a Casio Cassiopeia E-115 Pocket PC, a San Disk card reader connected to a desktop PC, a Micron Transport notebook, and a Dell Inspiron 7000 notebook. The first time you plug the device into a plug-and-play notebook, Windows 98 sees it as a conventional IDE/EIDE device and automatically loads the driver (we didn't have to use the provided floppy with driver files). After initial installation on a Windows notebook, the drive can be found as a lettered drive in Windows Explorer or in My Computer. When we slid the IBM drive into the PDAs and the card reader, we accessed it with no additional steps.

If the price of the 1GB drive is a stopper, but you like the size and platform versatility of the MicroDrive, a 512MB model costs around $100 less, and the original 340MB version is still available for even cheaper.

Manufacturer est. price $499
Rated formatted capacity 1.00GB
Cost per megabyte 49 cents
Buffer size 128MB
Available in retail package Yes
Number of platters 1
Number of heads 1
Average seek time 12 ms
Average latency 8.33 ms
Maximum internal transfer rate (media to buffer) 59.9 megabits per second
Maximum external transfer rate (buffer to host) 13.3 megabits per second
Standard warranty parts 1 years
Standard warranty labor 1 years
Advanced replacement available Yes
Toll-free technical support hours 24/7
Who pays for shipment under warranty Customer
File downloads available via Web Yes
Interface CF+ II
Online technical support Yes
Internal or External External
Platforms PC, Mac; CF+ II-compliant Windows CE handhelds and digital cameras
Data density (gigabit-per-square-inch) 15.2
Dimensions (in inches) 0.2 x 1.7 x 1.4
Weight 0.6 oz.
Disk rotation speed 3600 RPM
Storage capacity per platter 1GB

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